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Using Mech Combat To Hone Engineering Skills

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the and-practicing-for-defeating-skynet dept.

Robotics 59

jjp9999 writes "Mech Warfare is a mix between Battlebots and MechWarrior, only without the fanfare. The teams around the competitions include engineers and professionals in robotics, and the games are — aside from being an homage to their love for science fiction — a way to hone their skills in the field. Andrew Alter, roboticist and one of the mech pilots, said the competitions are taken as 'an engineering challenge,' noting that while they do compete, 'Having this mix of skill levels and demographics is really great to see, as information and ideas tend to flow freely. We're also solving practical real-world problems like being able to stream video over Wi-Fi in high-interference areas. It's not nearly as easy as one might think.'"

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awww :( (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 years ago | (#39420853)

I wanna play...

Re:awww :( (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39422065)

I want that new Mechwarrior game from Smith and Tinker, hell I want someone to release the code for the old MW games so i can get the damned things to run on X64 Win 7! Man I miss those things, i use to make those Shadowcat twerps soooo damned pissed. i had my mech stripped down to the bare metal and loaded up with nothing but the biggest fucking guns it would hold. No lasers, no missiles, no jumpjets or heatsinks, just really big fucking cannons. I only got one shot but wooo mama, i hit you and it was all over, anything smaller than an assault was tofu and even the assault and heavy would be hurting. I had 6 guys I played with and we had it set up like the big blue blanket of WWII, mine and another big gun taking the place of the carriers, 3 mediums covering our sides and back, and a light in the front for early warning and harassment, man that was fun.

But this looks like battlebots NOT mechs, mechs you climb into. Now personally I'd love to see a REAL mech battle but i bet the insurance alone would kill any chance of getting it off the ground. Well that and when a couple of contestants lost body parts i doubt you'd get anybody who wanted to compete anymore.

Re:awww :( (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39424773)

Sure you can't climb into them (they are 1/24 scale models) for obvious reasons, but you can only control them from the on-board wifi camera with FPV goggles (no outside view of the arena). So the game play will be more like mech warrior (cockpit view) than battle bots RC style. Personally I'm hanging out for when they allow jump jet versions.

I don't care.. (4, Funny)

gallondr00nk (868673) | about 2 years ago | (#39420863)

Until someone makes a copy of the Timber Wolf / Madcat.

Best. Mech. Ever.

Re:I don't care.. (4, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#39421103)

I know, right? In every game from MW2 onward, once I got to the point where I could deploy a Timberwolf/Madcat, the rest of the mechs became uninteresting. I played with the 100 ton mechs and always came back to the Timberwolf. Best combination of maneuverability, firepower, and armor than anything else out there.

In ... MW4, I think, there was a MkII you could play for a couple missions. Heavier and a little slower, but still better than any 100 ton class. And you could reduce armor, upgrade the engine and have almost the same speed and maneuverability as a timberwolf with increased loadout.

After playing the games for years, I loaded up every mech (at the point where it became possible) with as many light gauss rifles as it could hold, and sniped while out of range of 90% of the game's weapons. It made the games absurdly easy. I suspect that's a programming or conceptual weakness in the game.

When I got bored with Mech Commander 2, I played the game with the smallest, lightest scout mech, and found what I think is a loophole in the game. It's absurdly easy to win with a flock of small mechs against a few larger ones. (Although it takes a little more strategy.)

Man, I miss Mechwarrior.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#39421129)

Man, I miss Mechwarrior.

Me to man... me too... *tear
ELH for life!

Re:I don't care.. (2)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421561)

Coming soon, to a PC near you: MechWarrior Online (http://mwomercs.com/)

Re:I don't care.. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421705)

I already have registered my old callsign on the Online website, but the issue I have with Online is that there appears to be no mission tree or narrative. One of the things that made the MW series interesting was how the story unfolded through the missions.

Re:I don't care.. (2)

GryMor (88799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39422265)

Already available, Mechwarrior: Living Legends [mechlivinglegends.net]

Re:I don't care.. (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421883)

I was all about the Daishi (in 3, at least). The lowest profile of any of the 100 tonners. I equipped it with four PPCs, heat sinks, and loads of armor. It could take a lot of punishment and one alpha strike would nearly make the Daishi go nuclear but it would instantly down any mech. Bonus: firing the alpha strike at anything above 0 heat. Having a thermonuclear suicide bomb as a last resort weapon is always a nice touch.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39423417)

It is in fact all about the Daishi from 3 onward. It is especially compelling in 4. Even now that the game (which is free!) comes with a metric assload of 'mechs, the Daishi is still one of the best by far. It can carry and functionally fire 6 ER LLs in most terrain conditions and you can load it up with autocannons and light gauss for those desert maps. and it is relatively difficult to headshot.

Mech IV is great because it runs on cheapass laptops of today, on a joystick that's $10 at a yard sale or flea market.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39423453)

I disagree. A madcat can easily beat the slow ponderous hulk of a Daishi in a fair fight. It can't turn quick enough, and it moves forward slower than a madcat can move backwards. It's only competitive if your opponent decides to stand and slug it out. Which would be moronic.

Nope, sorry, a Daishi is a big, shiny, loser's mech. It's a trap!

Re:I don't care.. (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39424861)

I play it more like tank combat. Less the "main battle tank flying over a hill" type, and more the "quietly creeping up a hill, just barely exposing your turret, and popping the unsuspecting fuck of a Wehrmacht tank crew with an AP shell" kind.

It's kind of like whack-a-mole, only the mole has particle-accelerators for hands.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39426495)

Yes, you have it exactly. My favorite tactic with the daishi is to set the lasers to individual fire and then wander back and forth over a ridgeline. As I come up onto the enemy's side I fire each CERLL in sequence to keep them dazed and unable to shoot me, then drop back over the ridgeline and cool down. fIre the lasers faster than you would for continuous fire to get that pause while you're behind the hill. I have an average kill ratio of about two mad cat MkIIs to one of my daishis exploding. I was regularly at the top of one or more of the stat ladders back in the day, though. The problem with the mad cat and the MkII is that you HAVE to put a lot of main weaponry in the arms in a long-range build, and they're hilariously easy to hit and blow off.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39428219)

It's been awhile since I played the game, but I'm pretty sure that the light gauss rifle had a longer range. I have seen the tactic you describe, but you can't fire without exposing a weapon, and if one goes after weapons instead of trying to pound on the thick armor around the cockpit, it's pretty easy to disarm the big guy. It takes more finesse, but bigger is not always better.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39436545)

The thing is, it's provably easier to get the hit on the arms of the mad cats because they stick out more, and the large lasers keep your opponent rocking to the point where most people can't hit you at all. It takes a little practice, but I used to play a whole hell of a lot.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39426513)

A madcat can easily beat the slow ponderous hulk of a Daishi in a fair fight. It can't turn quick enough

By turning the legs AND the torso at the same time, EASY if you have pedals and I do, you can turn quick enough to hit anything slower than about 96 kph any old time, and if you strip any Mad Cat or MkII down that far it's a tinderbox or it's toothless

Re:I don't care.. (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39426933)

Just use a three axis stick. I'm a Daishi fan myself, and have never had a maneuverability issue, but I have to admit never playing against humans. If someone is trying to get behind you one thing you can do is turn while backing up, it makes it nearly impossible for a mech even twice as fast as you to get behind you.

I do like how the different mission scenarios force you to optimize for entirely different things.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39428227)

A madcat can easily beat the slow ponderous hulk of a Daishi in a fair fight. It can't turn quick enough

By turning the legs AND the torso at the same time, EASY if you have pedals and I do, you can turn quick enough to hit anything slower than about 96 kph any old time, and if you strip any Mad Cat or MkII down that far it's a tinderbox or it's toothless

The problem is, after you get to the end of your turn radius, you're limited by how fast the chassis can turn, and a mad cat can walk in a circle faster than that.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39436565)

The problem is, after you get to the end of your turn radius, you're limited by how fast the chassis can turn, and a mad cat can walk in a circle faster than that.

It's not a problem if you plan for it, release any weapons which are unfired when they're about to outrun your turn, and then reverse and turn the other way at the same time.

As for the sibling comment about the twisting joystick, I have a Logi and a Saitek Cyborg 3D USB gold but I still get more kills with the F22 Pro with stickworks conversion. I'm between throttles right now, though. I have a couple of MkIIs I could convert with Arduino or something. Hmm, that's not a bad idea actually. It's not a great throttle but it's better than nothing.

Mech Commander 2 FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39422543)

If you're interested, I made a complete walkthrough on doing MC2 with light mech teams:

Company B - A Mechwarrior Dojo [the-spoiler.com]

Re:I don't care.. (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39424381)

I did what you did with MC2 as well. I seem to recall the first game had the same 'flaw'. I also had a Madcat poster (that I had screen printed myself) in my room as a teen (the CD cover from Mechwarrior II). I wonder what ever happened to that... The game intro movie to Mechwarrior 2 was the single biggest determining factor in making me a computer geek, sad to say. It was that cool, and probably more influential in my life than losing my virginity.

Believe it or not, you could do some serious damage against even the mighty Timberwolf/Madcat/MkII with something like, oh, a small body omnimech. Or even something like the Uller or Nova - they were absolutely vicious with the right pilot and terrain. I would play vs. against a good friend who would consistently beat me with the small, fast mechs regardless of what I used, and would basically decimate the Assault class mechs without me even seeing him. It was all strategy and playing the field for what it was, with human/human multiplayer.

Hell, even a Thor with the right armaments was pretty useful. Not quite as maneuverable, but the firepower you could pack in the 'missile pod' and its armor capabilities made it a good contender (as long as you could keep your back to the wall).

Bushwackers and their big brother caldronborn were pretty damn good at ambushes. They could punch a really hard hit right off with ER lasers, especially if you were teaming with someone with jammers (eg. someone with a vulture and a lot of armor)

Re:I don't care.. (1)

Gertlex (722812) | about 2 years ago | (#39421131)

How about an Immortal-based mech (i.e. from StarCraft 2)? That was last year's winner... see this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrhlYsF2uTU [youtube.com]

Re:I don't care.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39421261)

ANY Veritech(from the Macross/Robotech Universe) would own any Madcat/MechWarrior mech all day long. Though I'll admit Madcat is Much more realistic(but only b/c of the power sources).

Heck the first Star Scream toy was actually a Veritech repainted.

Re:I don't care.. (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39426979)

You misremember. It was Jetfire, not Starscream. He even came with the extra armor. As far as what would own what, we have no way of comparing armor and weapon strength between fictional universes.

Mechwarrior (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39420879)

Reactor online, Sensors online, Weapons online, all systems nominal.

Re:Mechwarrior (1)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421581)

Yup - check out the trailer for MWO, I love that they kept the classic phrasing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6aFV1W8-jU [youtube.com]

Re:Mechwarrior (1)

Sxooter (29722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39428783)

Last line should be "All systems nominal." But it's close

Jamming (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#39420887)

I hope it isn't against the rules to jame the other guy's remote.
The competitors will probably be using a 2.4ghz spread spectrum controller,
so if you could figure out a way to get the jammer to clear the channels you're trying to use...
They'd probably ban it after the first time. Rule making bodies love nothing more than to punish success.

Re:Jamming (2)

Idbar (1034346) | about 2 years ago | (#39421009)

Actually, it is... but then again wasn't that the way some other country allegedly recovered a drone?

So if is a realistic game, why not jamming signals, may as well come up with very robust communication schemes or actually improved autonomous robots.

Re:Jamming (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#39421049)

The Iran capture of a US drone? If one of the stories is correct, yes, they jammed the signals and it went into "land safely" mode. More likely GPS or other satellites than short-range WiFi, but yeah, it's an interesting limitation to automated warfare in general.

Re:Jamming (2)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421605)

So if is a realistic game, why not jamming signals

For the same reason the aren't allowed to pull an Indy and just shoot the other pilot.

I mean apart from one being murder and the other just being an annoying way to defeat an opponent.

They're both not in the spirit of the thing, which is to simulate mech combat where the pilot would actually be in the mech itself (or it's autonomous). That's why there's a rule about pilots only being able to see the arena through a camera mounted on the robot itself.

They're obviously trying to make this more of a sport-like game when they require the camera to be roughly center-of-mass like it's a cockpit window. The ability to look around corners which they're trying to avoid would be like the first thing you'd add to a 'real' mech.

Re:Jamming (2)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421943)

Well, you can only go so far with many things on-board. Yes, you can try to smash everyone with a 36" 4-legged robot (maximum allowed) but there's probably a battery penalty for playing that game. Same with the jammer, the more power you put on your jammer the more effective it is, but more power consumption.

You case of murdering the other pilots seems extreme, and I agree with some limitations (same as F1, for safety of the pilots and teams you may limit speed, or other stuff), but being a case of jamming, and not being harmful (unless you're planning on killing the pilot from cancer or whatnot). Why not allow people to look around search for techniques that improve the reliability of the device and also cases of autonomy where the system maybe completely disconnected.

I'm not saying it should be the rule for all (particularly for beginners), but perhaps an advanced level. And yes, of course limit the weapons by penalizing collateral damage (by your standards/examples, it appears that you'd expect robots carrying nukes and I sincerely don't agree with that).

Re:Jamming (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39422213)

The main problem with jamming is that it is meant to "simulate" piloting such a mech from in the cockpit (and contestants aren't allowed a direct view of the battlefield, which they would have in such a situation even if they were jammed). If there was a way to selectively jam signals so that you could see, but any other signals were jammed, I imagine it would be allowed.

Re:Jamming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39424883)

great so everybody installs a high gain antenna and a big power supply and all the bots sit there doing nothing (what a great game). They have rules against gimmicks so that the game is fun for everybody instead of some one that can't win with skill, just using a cheap radio jammer instead. Interestingly autonomous bots are allowed so if they did allow radio jammers all the winners would switch to autonomous robots which would basically exclude humans from something fun. So i am really struggling to see what you hope to achieve by allowing jamming other than giving the game to robots or just making it very boring. It's about simulating a mech battle and if you were in one you would be in direct control making jamming a completely different story. So back the fuck off, the rules were chosen for very good reasons, if you want to start your own league where the robots don't move because they have all there controls jammed go for it but i doubt it will be popular.

Re:Jamming (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39428347)

Why not allow people to look around search for techniques that improve the reliability of the device and also cases of autonomy where the system maybe completely disconnected.

Like I said, they're trying to simulate mechs that either have human pilots inside, or are completely autonomous. That's why the restriction on the pilot's view of the arena, and the restriction against jamming -- the radio connection between pilot and mech is "out of context", you see?

It's the same reason a non-harmful way of disabling the actual human pilot standing outside the arena isn't allowed.

Re:Jamming (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39429685)

The problem with a frequency jammer is that disproportionately more difficult to overcome than it is to implement. These are guys building their mechs as a hobby in their garage, not well funded defense contractors. A jammer is trivially cheap to implement and has a low enough battery draw that it may as well not be there. On the flip side, overcoming those effects really is not possible with commodity hardware - an off the shelf WIFI or Bluetooth transceiver will simply stop working - it takes significant effort and investment that would put the price of developing one of these mechs through the roof.

On top of that, what parent poster already pointed out, the intent is to simulate mech combat. A pilot would be in the cockpit which would not be subject to wireless jamming.

Re:Jamming (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39422335)

Because operating a jammer is *still* generally illegal in most jurisdictions?

Re:Jamming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39425049)

it's either ban it or watch everybody do it and have only autonomous robots capable of doing anything. Now don't get me wrong autonomous mechs are awesome, but screw that i wanna pilot.

Re:Jamming (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39426049)

Rule making bodies love nothing more than to punish success.

You're probably the kind of person who doesn't understand why they don't allow EMPs in Formula One or tasers in American football.

That video's kinda cool (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39421353)

My initial reaction was "Why the hell are they all using legs instead of treads?"

Then I checked their rules [mech-warfare.com] .

Mechs are to be true walking robots. Legs must be servo/actuator driven. No cam-driven, wheeled, or treaded configurations (except in the beginner league).
        Mechs may have up to 4 legs (Unlimited in the beginner league).

So that explained to me why they were using such ungainly configurations.

Some of the other rules on the mechs were about height, limitations as to leaving parts behind to hinder/causing damage to the arena (which I think would be pretty cool a function to build in honestly), and most interesting to me, control. The gist of it is that robots can either be autonomous OR controlled remotely. The kicker? Remote control can only be done if you have a wireless camera mounted in the "cockpit" area to control it. Which is pretty friggin awesome in my opinion.

To someone's talk about jammers...

In all weapons classes, weapons designed to interfere in any way with an opponent's camera or wireless control are strictly forbidden.

And of course the rules on weapons, what the arena will be like, the rules, etc.

Also, given that the only restriction for mechs is height with no weight restriction yet, what's forbidding them from making a land dreadnought style 4 legged monstrosity which is below height limit, has automated weapon systems (bypassing the cockpit camera restriction), and can fire in any and all directions at once upon detecting movement? Other than, y'know, sportsmanship.

And fuck you slashdot for making my captcha "virgins".

Re:That video's kinda cool (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39421483)

Also, given that the only restriction for mechs is height with no weight restriction yet, what's forbidding them from making a land dreadnought style 4 legged monstrosity which is below height limit, has automated weapon systems (bypassing the cockpit camera restriction), and can fire in any and all directions at once upon detecting movement? Other than, y'know, sportsmanship.

Wait, no, I'm stupid and lazy. I went over the rules again in detail.

Mechs have HP instead of a knockdown/destroy the other to win function a la Battlebots. Also if a mech is stationary for their body length for longer than 20 seconds, they automatically lose hp, counting as destroyed if unmoving for 60 seconds. No campers here! (rule does not apply during active firefights)

Land Dreadnought fail.

Re:That video's kinda cool (1)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421947)

One of the reasons that armies don't try building giant robots is that a two story robot like the one in the video clips present a huge target at long ranges. I forget where I heard this, but there's a reason why M1 is low and squat (8 ft tall) where some early tanks like the Sherman were taller (9 ft). But... who cares! It's remote control robots shooting at each other. How is that not cool?!

Re:That video's kinda cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39422693)

The Sherman was tall because the Army standardized on it's width to fit existing water transportation. Most other tanks of the period were not tall at all, given the disadvantage of being a big target.

Re:That video's kinda cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39429459)

Which is one of many reasons, contrary to all the hype around the Sherman, why its a crappy ass tank, even for the era. For late in the war, it can easily be argued it was the shittiest tank being fielded in mass. The Germans didn't fear the Sherman and frequenly laughed (not hyperbole here) when the Shermans starting firing. And as a side note, The Russians, not the Germans, as is widely believed, had some of the best tanks of WWII. The Rusians were the first to implement slopped armour which proved to be profoundly effective against all comers.

More fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39421893)

In the interest of safety, recordability, and not damaging the arena, they have banned any weapons that could actually harm a metal mech. So expect a bunch of unarmed, over-armored slow-moving low profile blobs that try ineffectively and unwatchably to push eachother over.

Re:More fail (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39424929)

check out the hardcore league they are starting, flame throwers, co2 rifles, and mini rockets but they need a better arena so they don't hurt spectators.

Re:More fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39427521)

flame throwers, co2 rifles, and mini rockets ...
None of which can pierce even a half-inch of steel plate.
And there are no rules against steel plate.

Re:More fail (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39427943)

If your going to cover your mech with a half inch of steel plate it's going to be very heavy and much harder to move (not saying it couldn't be done but you would need much bigger actuators and power supply), and you will always be able to take out the camera or heat it enough for plastic parts to fail.

Re:More fail (1)

JeanCroix (99825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39428991)

Do they allow tasers, tesla coils, or sprayed acid? I'm liking the sounds of this hardcore league...

Re:More fail (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39430295)

i can only hope. while we are at it how about pneumatic spear rams to deliver the acid and volts (or maybe liquid nitrogen) inside the enemy. Rail guns and pulsed lasers could potentially do a fair amount of damage. Also i really hope they allow a helicopter on the head (or some kind of jump jet) so you can rain hell from above.

Kickstarter (4, Informative)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39421983)

TFA mentions that they have a Kickstarter project going to build a new arena (made out of tougher materials so they can allow higher-powered weapons while still keeping spectators safe), if anyone wants to kick in a few bucks. Linky. [kickstarter.com]

No autonomous class? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39426137)

I see they allow both autonomous and RC. Now who in their right mind is going to field an autonomous bot against RC competitors? They should have a separate autonomous-only class if they ever want to see one entered.

Re:No autonomous class? (1)

RLowerr (2599773) | more than 2 years ago | (#39431621)

For the challenge? It would be suicide for the event to fragment the already shallow depth of competitors at this point.

LOL @ mechs page (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39426253)

LOL check out the Mechs page...I see there's a good sense of humor among the competitors XD

It looked cool until... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39426835)

It looked pretty cool until I read the rules. They ban all of what they call "gimmicks" and what I would call "all the possible interesting design decisions". For example, they ban designing your robot to be able to shoot around corners using a camera on the guns. I would have tried to put a mirror on the gun so I could see around corners using the regular cockpit camera. But, apparently, they would think this is a "gimmick" and not a clever design.

Since they are outlawing all the cool mech designs, their competition is less about engineering and more about how well you operate remote controlled robots.

       

Re:It looked cool until... (1)

RLowerr (2599773) | more than 2 years ago | (#39431535)

You seem to be grossly downplaying the engineering (mechanical, electrical, and software) required to get even a simple walking robot capable of competing in this competition. They want people to focus on building reliably working robots not on gimmicks to win a competition that has no prize.
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